Today Wednesday Writers welcomes Sarah Kohnle, author of Shifting Gears. Sarah, please tell the readers about the book that is being showcased today and how you came up with the concept for this book.
It all started with a deathbed challenge in Minnesota. And when the summer is over, a middle-aged, sedentary housewife realizes those words no longer define her. Join Meg and her son n a ride filled with adventure, tears and laughter. If she can do, can you?
Shifting Gears is a novel that evolved over many years and many miles. I started writing it when I recalled a true character I met as a reporter. Strangely enough, that person plays a prominent role toward the end of the book. I never could have guessed that would have been the germ of an idea. It seems a lot of true life stuff makes it into my novels. I am very thankful for the experiences I had as a reporter across the Midwest. Lots of good stories in my bank!
But back to SG – the idea popped in my head and all of a sudden became a bicycling/road trip story. That meant I had to get back on my bike for some research. I had done a lot of long-distance cycling before our sons were born and the book brought me back to a former love on two wheels! I strive for authenticity, so I knew I had to log miles along with Meg, my lead character.
What are you working on now? Do you have a release date for this book?
I have several other manuscripts around, in various stages. Last month, I took another stab at NaNoWriMo, and although I didn’t finish this time, it made me realize I can complete a novel on my lunch hour. I don’t need to give up my day job.
Your various stages manuscripts leads me to another question. Are you a procrastinator or do-it-now person?
Procrastinator? Ha, if only your readers could hear me laughing! As a former journalist, I like to call it “deadline-driven.” Sometimes that may look like procrastination. I like to work under pressure and feel I do my best work at the last minute.
You mentioned the biking research for your book and the authenticity you created. What about setting. Do you do anything special to create yours, like visiting the area, googling satellite maps, looking at books or pictures?
Great question! Ideally, I visit the sites I write about because I love adding the little details that make it real and make readers say, “I know that spot!” If I am unable to see it for myself, I rely heavily on research and interviews.
What’s the first book you ever remember reading as a child?
I have loved books for as long as I can remember! There was a great little book called “Are You My Mother?” I recall reading that to my class when I was in first-grade because I loved it so much! Of course, I had to raise my children on that same book. One of my favorite drawings in it is a little bird, in clear distress with his little beak wide open. The page still has the slobber marks from the pacifier when one of my sons (now in his 20s) tried to comfort the bird.
Aw. How sweet is that. Do you have any favorite writing craft books?
In my bookcase, I have a whole shelf dedicated to books by Brett Lott and James Scott Bell and many others, to enhance my fiction. One of my go-to books is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.
Are you a full-time writer or do you have a day job? If so, what is it?
I devour books and I am quite fortunate that I receive boxes of books almost daily as part of my job. As the managing editor for an association for educators in the state, I oversee a review committee. The committee reviews thousands of titles each year and we compile a booklet of annotations. It’s a tradition that goes back to the 1920s, and I am very proud to be a part of it.
In addition to managing publications, I recently returned to teaching at the college level. I am wrapping up the semester this week and getting ready to grade tons of final papers for my journalism students. I have really enjoyed it! I can say with assurance there is hope for the world of journalism — these students have been a lot of fun, and they can write!
I now get to host an annual weekend retreat for writers and photographers, via my day job. The spot is on a scenic river in the Ozarks and is a great time to create in the beauty and quiet of nature. Past faculty includes award-winner YA author Antony John and well-known author Deborah Raney. As the event continues to grow, I have been able to add to the faculty and now have a small-press publisher. This past fall, three participants were offered book contracts. All very exciting!
It’s been a pleasure having you here today. As you say goodbye, can you leave the readers with an encapsulation of your life’s philosophy.
It’s been so fun chatting with you! Before we say good-bye, I want to share my most-recent favorite verse. Genesis 4:7, NLT: You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it now and be its master.
Have a wonderful Christmas!
Step One: light a candle.
Meg Albertson smoothed out the folds in the hospice center’s typed instructions and reread the sheet, faded and fuzzy from a trip through the washing machine.
Light a candle. Say a prayer.
A box of matches sat on the mantle next to a ceramic jar, the size of her palm. Meg reached for the jar and matches then carried them over to the coffee table next to the candle. She sank down on the couch, her fingers curled around the matchbox. With her other hand, she caressed the smooth sides of the jar.
Light a candle. Say a prayer.
She struck a wooden matchstick. Wind rattling down the chimney snaked out the open flue and snuffed the flame. Another draft shivered across her neck. Meg didn’t budge. She sat and stared at the burnt match while the memory candle mocked her from the mantle. Perhaps she should get up and close the flue and light the candle.
Behind her house, pine trees dotted the edge of the frozen lake, a lake as silent as a dead man. The sky was like the gray film of dust that clung to the family room baseboards. Inside, yellowed newspapers, tightly bound with rubber bands, covered the coffee table. Fast-food wrappers stained with grease and splotches of catsup littered the floor.
Maybe a real fire in the fireplace would take the edge off the mess, make it seem festive. If she waited long enough, maybe someone would build one for her.
Loud pounding on the front door saved her from having to endure the obligatory candle ceremony and the rest of the steps.
“Meg Albertson, you home?”
Meg darted behind the draperies. The doorbell rang in three quick bursts. Nothing good ever came from an early morning visitor.
Pound, pound, pound. The visitor reverted to the original technique.
Meg peeked down the hall to the front door window. With relief she saw a friendly face, someone to light a fire for her. She swept a comforter from the back of the couch and draped it around herself. She pulled the door open and a gust of wind swirled in.
“Did I wake you?” Her husband’s old friend, Chip, stood on the front porch, stomping snow off his massive boots. The two men had been buddies since second grade in Lake Devine, tucked in the northern woods of Minnesota.
“Heavens no, up for hours. Since the sun rose.” Meg, bundled in the comforter, leaned against the doorframe.
“It sure is a cold one.” Chip rubbed his gloves together.
Then he stomped his boots again. “Um, can I come in?”
Meg flushed. “Excuse my brain lapse. Of course.” She waved him into the hallway.
“Before I forget Meg, Merry Christmas. Well, tomorrow I guess.” Chip hesitated and then reached out to hug her. The warmth of his embrace seemed to seep through his down parka straight through the comforter and into Meg’s thin robe. She needed his touch, anyone’s touch. Two bright patches of scarlet flashed across the frosty pink and white on Chip’s cheeks and he pulled away. He inched closer to the front door before he tugged off his wool cap and reached to scratch his head.
“Gee, sorry we haven’t stopped in to see you lately. It’s been busy down at the hardware store. Jean’s been busy too, all the holiday stuff.” Chip looked down at his feet.
“But here.” Chip thrust a small package into her hands. “Robert made me promise I’d deliver this for Christmas.”
“Robert?” Meg tossed the package back, like a game of hot potato.
Chip leaned over and forced the package back in her grasp. Meg stared at the object and began to sway ever so slightly to the cadence of the clock on the wall. The ticking grew louder. Meg squeezed her eyes shut to stop the noise.
Chip cleared his throat. “Meg? Meg?”
She opened one eye. Chip still stood there and she still held the package.
“But, Chip?” Her palm moved up to cradle her jaw as she stumbled over a response. “What’s this all about?”
“Beats me. I’m just the delivery boy, but call Jean if you need anything. Okay then, I’m off.” Chip scooted out the door. Meg watched him leap over a snow bank and jog to his truck. Dual plumes of exhaust puffed behind it as he tore out of the driveway.
When the truck was no longer visible, Meg turned away. Robert, what this time? Meg pulled the paper off as she walked back to the family room, leaving a trail of gold foil. With an index finger, she stroked the white label on the gift, a DVD. “For Meg, Merry Christmas.” It was Robert’s scrawl. She cradled the DVD in her hands and drew it to her chest. Maybe he transferred a copy of their wedding video. After a few minutes, she popped it into the player, unable to wait. Whatever was recorded, she had to see it.
Meg grabbed the remote and teetered inches away from the screen.
Robert looked at her, his face drawn and gray.
“Hi honey, I guess if you’re watching this, I must be dead.”
The book is available at Astraea Press – http://www.astraeapress.com/#!/Shifting-Gears-by-Sarah-Kohnle/p/34020382
And all the regular online outlets –
About the Author:
As an award-winning journalist, Sarah Kohnle covered stories across the Midwest. She’s been a reporter/editor for several years and has multiple publishing credits to her name in newspapers, trade magazines, and corporate newsletters. Currently, she is managing editor for a state association for teachers. One of her passions is serving in Honduras as a short-term missionary with World Gospel Outreach in Tegucigalpa providing medical, dental and optical services.
Her roots were planted in North Dakota and she and her husband currently reside in Missouri.